Children are marketed different television programs in the name of cartoons and other supposed children's entertainment programs. But how observant are we of the impact they have on them?
News on the Arik Air stowaway lad has been on the hit waves since the incidence occurred about two weeks ago. Different versions have emerged of the story. One of them is that the young, Daniel Oikhena, was mesmerized about America and the things he saw of 'The land of opportunities' on the different television programmes and movies he watched.
In frequent conversations with his brother, he dreamed about going to the US so that he could partake of the many glories and beauties he had 'seen'. It was on account of this he dared to be adventurous enough to embark on his long desired trip to America. Oblivious of the fact that it took a lot more than merely boarding an aircraft to embark on any journey, Daniel beat all supposedly watchful eyes until he conveniently hid in the wheel well of the aircraft and journeyed with other passengers, destination Lagos from Benin.
Whether this version is correct or not, is another matter. But what comes to mind in all of this is how much impact television is having on our children and how far these kids are willing to go, to bring to fruition desires provoked but what they have viewed.
It is a big problem admits Ekenne Madu a single mum of two. "In the past I would allow my kids watch a lot of cartoons especially on DStv until I began notice that their language became a little more hostile to one another and their attitude as well.
Madu said, "I began watching some of their programs with them and got to the root of it linking it to one of their favourite children's programs. It was a tough one re-orientating their minds. This further helped me understand how much of a role model these television characters are role models to them and how easily they emulate what they see, even when they play."
According to animation creator, Adamu Waziri, "a problem was that since there is vacuum, children now consume adult media. For instance go to most children's parties in Nigeria and you'll see young girls dancing like adult women as they listen to club music from the latest Nigerian music star. The music is not the problem. The fact that young children are now listening and dancing to adult songs about sex and other such subjects is the issue."
The creator of 'Bino and Fino' children's educational show added: "Television is one of the most effective mediums with which to impact children. Whether it is a positive of negative impact on a child depends on many things. Parental supervision is very important as is the content the child consumes and the time spent doing so. Television can be used as a powerful educational tool when deployed properly."
Waziri notes that, it is also important to take into cognizance that television is not the only medium children are exposed today. "They now access computers, smart phones and tablets. You may think that this not does affect many children in Nigeria but it does. I read somewhere that Nigeria has more mobile phone users than Germany. Once device prices come down as well as internet access there will be an explosion. The coming generations will grow up always knowing the internet unlike us older ones. They will use it in ways we can only dream of."
He advises that, it is best to prepare our children to navigate that new world.
It doesn't rest with television programs. It also includes songs, says Emike Akilu. "When you go to parties, what kinds of songs are being played? What lyrics are contained in the songs? Have you noticed how so easily children memorise the lyrics of songs? Whether they understand or not what the words mean, I'm very embarrassed when I hear my children miming songs with vulgar words or interpretations in them.
"In as much as I try to prevent them from listening to such songs, it's a very big challenge I'm contending with because of the various mediums through which they are expressed. I don't have control over them so what I do is to educate my children on the right path regarding these things. I pray they stick to them," she added.
Further corroborating Akilu's worries, Mr. Ojoola Ogedengbe said, "I was listening to a radio programme. People phoned in to ask for their favourite songs to be played on the condition that they first sang the song themselves. An eight-year old girl called and said she wanted the song 'Take banana till you go yo' by D'Prince. The presenter asked if she could sing it and she boastfully said 'very well. It is my best song." I cringed in my car seat and desperately hoped he wouldn't grant her request after he inquired if her parents knew she was calling and she said no but her aunty was with her. He disappointed me by going ahead to not only play the song but to listen to her sing it first.
He added: there should be a lot more control with programs aired and participations on them. Adults should also be more responsible as to the things they allow their children exposure to."
A famous trend now, is that a lot of movies which have age restrictions set at teenager years now have been made into animations for children with hardly any modifications from the original movie version and no age restriction. To this, Waziri said, it relates to the fact that animation is just another creative story telling medium just like film and music. "Just because something is animated and is a cartoon doesn't mean it is for children. It is a fine line and parents have to be aware of it.
"In principle I have no problem with converting movies rated for teenagers and above into animated versions. However what I do have a problem with though is companies pretending some shows are suitable for young children and market them as such. Their responsibility is to make it clear if there is any serious adult material contained in the show so parents can make an informed decision on what their children can watch."